We're wrapping up another round of seasons on The CW's various series that compose the Arrowverse, which depicts the adventures of a variety of DC comics characters. And while the events of Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and sometimes Supergirl are mostly fun and entertaining, we still have some issues.
Some of the problems we still see in the TV universe started all the way back in Arrow's first season back in 2012. But some are fairly recent, because they just keep adding new shows that come with their own baggage. Unfortunately, most of them have just gotten worse through the years, as recycled concepts, adherence to formulas, and all-out inertia keep the creators from pushing their shows to their full potential.
Here are our 15 biggest issues with the Arrowverse, now that it's been going on for a dozen combined seasons and probably won't change much now.
15 The Canary Cry is unfilmable
We have more specific complaints with how the Arrowverse treats the character of Black Canary, but we have to give this one its own entry because it takes us out of every scene it shows up in.
One of the problems with adapting superpowers to live action is that what works as a drawing on a page doesn’t necessarily translate to special effects and shots with actual humans. And we’ve come to accept the less-than-impressive, computer-generated versions of Barry Allen, Ray Palmer, and Firestorm when they do their running and flying things, but more basic powers like the various Black Canaries’ trademark ability continue to lose us.
The problem is that this ability doesn’t demand that an actor swap out for a computer-generated nightmare mannequin; it requires a person to pretend to scream so that the effects team can add the sonic blast effect later. But all we see is the poor actor standing there with their mouth blasted open, and we’re embarrassed for them.
14 How fast is The Flash?
The comics have this same issue, so we can’t really fault the TV version too much. But nobody working on any version of the Scarlet Speedster can decide how fast the hero is.
It’s a tough issue to tackle: how do you create a sense of danger for a person who can run so fast that he can travel through time? And how do you create a villain capable of defeating them? Several narrative options exist, including other speedsters (more on that later) and abilities that can affect his physiology, like Top’s dizzy-making powers.
The Flash’s writers have used these tactics, but every once in a while, we see Barry fail to successfully dodge attacks from conventional weapons or just things villains throw at them. Like, with their arms. It’s more dramatic and shows vulnerability, sure, but it makes zero sense.
13 Oliver's illegitimate son
We’re glad that episodes of Arrow have recaps before them, because we forget about Oliver Queen’s son immediately after every episode he appears in. That’s because he’s not a character so much as he is a hidden reservoir of drama that the writers dip into when they’ve run out of regular cast members to endanger.
William, whose name we just had to look up, recently returned to the show so that Prometheus could kidnap and threaten him to get to Oliver. The last time he showed up before that was so that Damien Darhk could kidnap and threaten him to get to Ollie. Before he was even born, Moira Queen paid William’s mother off so that she couldn’t use the kid to threaten and get to Oliver.
The kid, unfortunately, is a human McGuffin good for upping the stakes for the more important people, and the only way to fix the issue is just not to use him anymore.
12 Legends' cutesy pop-culture nods
Let’s be clear: we have no more problem with the Legends of Tomorrow meeting people like Star Wars director George Lucas (above) or The Lord of the Rings writer J.R.R. Tolkien than we do with The Doctor hanging out with Vincent van Gogh. That’s part of the fun of time-travel stories.
What actually bothers us, however, is when we get a scene like the one in which the Legion of Doom traps Lucas and the Legends in a compactor, and then they live out the famous scene from A New Hope while trying to escape. Or we see Tolkien seeing secret writing on the Spear of Destiny that only shows up when the powerful artifact is exposed to fire.
It’s all in fun, but we don’t like nudge scenes that exist only to “reward” us for memorizing dialogue in other things; it makes us cringe. And the idea that Lucas got his inspiration from a time he almost got crushed and not the dozens of adventure serials in which the same thing happens is just silly at best.
11 (Some) dodgy costumes
The clothes make the hero or villain, but the Arrowverse’s tailoring history is a bit spotty.
We have no arguments with the threads Oliver Queen fights crime in — other than that time his “costume” was a hooded sweatshirt and a mask that he literally painted on. But his current duds are fine. The rest of the franchise has some other, more questionable picks, including Eobard Thawne’s inexplicably veiny get-up as the Reverse Flash. Why does his suit have veins? It looks gross and is the opposite of aerodynamic.
And it’s definitely a good thing that the Flash producers didn’t go with the comics version for this season’s villain, Savitar. We don’t think any costumer is good enough to accurately adapt an ensemble consisting of a metal mask and no shirt. But the version they went with looks less like a terrifying baddie and more like he’s about to go send a series of monsters to fight the Power Rangers.
10 Nothing relationships
The CW has a young demographic of fans who like to see their favorite characters end up together, which is why we keep getting so many pairings in the Arrowverse’s varied groups. Members of Teams Arrow and Flash, as well as some Legends, have had relationships both short and long-term. Some have almost gotten married. The only problem is that none of these relationships are interesting or make any sense.
We have no idea why Wally West and Jesse Quick like each other, nor do they get enough screen time to sell the relationship to us. Oliver Queen and Felicity Smoak don’t have the exposure issue since they’re the main characters on Arrow, but their relationship, as far as we can tell, is based on both of them being attractive. They have so little in common other than their jobs that we don’t even know what they would have to talk about outside of work.
We also just remembered that Atom and Hawkgirl were together for a while on Legends. What? Why?
9 Too many speedsters
Granted, the DC Universe contains tons of people who can tap into the Speed Force and run as fast (or slow) as the plot demands. But it introduced them a little more slowly because people still had to come up with them.
The Flash, however, has full access to DC’s established roster, and it hasn’t been stingy about including them as quickly as possible. In addition to Barry Allen, we’ve also seen Jay Garrick, Eobard Thawne, Hunter Zolomon, Wally West, Jesse Quick, and Savitar. And it’s thrown them all in there in the space of three years. Every major villain has been a speedster, which sets up an expectation and pattern that the producers can’t maintain much longer.
We get it, because speedsters are the most immediately apparent match for the Fastest Man Alive, but they’re burning through them like Barry Allen works off calories, which doesn’t leave many options for future seasons.
And speaking of Arrowverse villains …
8 Reliance on mystery, masked characters
Every Arrowverse show has fallen into this trap: the season’s main baddie is wearing a mask, and you simply would not believe who is under it. It has worked to varying degrees, but it’s mostly just feeling formulaic now.
Arrow had the Dark Archer and Prometheus; Legends of Tomorrow had Chronos; and The Flash is the king of this, with Reverse Flash, Zoom, Zoom’s masked prisoner, Alchemy, and Savitar. In most cases, characters have devoted most of their time trying to figure out the villain’s secret identity, and it is very rarely satisfying, because no reveal can live up to that hype.
In fact, the Chronos reveal (he was a future version of Mick Rory, who was presumed dead) is the only one that works, because we had no reason to believe that the person in that armor was anyone we know, and nobody at any point says anything like, “You wouldn’t believe who Chronos was even if I told you,” which keeps his identity from being a puzzle instead of the decent twist we ended up getting.
7 Arrow's flashbacks
In order to learn the skills that would let him become the Green Arrow, Oliver Queen had to spend five years in hell. And we know that because about a third of each episode takes place during his formative time on and off the island he was shipwrecked on. That would be fine except for two problems. First, the events in the past are mostly boring, and second, they’ve made the first five seasons of the show sadly formulaic.
Here’s how it’s worked so far: a new threat appears in Star(ling) City — probably wearing a mask — and Team Arrow struggles to combat it. The flashbacks show how Oliver already, somehow, met the evildoer during his island vacation, and the present-day issue is directly related to how that worked out. So this means that every villain has taken exactly five years to plot their revenge or their next scheme, and it’s just really weird how that has worked out.
With the fifth season ending, we assume we’ll run out of Island Time to show, but Arrow has started going back to events from earlier in the series instead. So it looks like the flashbacks will stay.
6 Sidelining Supergirl
We understand the narrative issues with bringing in a character with every superpower and who can therefore solve every problem almost immediately; that’s why most of the X-Men movies get Professor X out of the way as quickly as possible. And Supergirl presents a similar threat to the Arrowverse. She makes things way too easy, because flight, super strength, and heat vision top almost anything other villains can do.
The solution, instead of just including her and saying, “Oh, she’s in space” every time she could end a conflict immediately, is to consign her to a parallel Earth and only bring her in for crossovers like the “Invasion” event and this season’s musical episode. This selective inclusion makes it seem like she’s in the Arrowverse but doesn’t “count” for whatever reason, and she feels like nothing more than a device for sweeps.
She’s like a more powerful version of Oliver’s son (whose name is still William, in case you’ve already forgotten), only they bring her out when they need a boost in ratings instead of drama.
5 It can't decide on time travel
You’d think that once you add a show to your roster that is all about people traveling through time, you’d have a system figured out for how to handle temporal mechanics. But despite the existence of Legends of Tomorrow, the Arrowverse still struggles to even decide if time travel is possible.
The current season of The Flash is about the team trying to prevent disastrous things from happening, and at one point, Barry launches into a bit about not knowing if it’s even possible to alter the timeline. And that’s weird for a couple reasons, one being that he just saw the byline change on a newspaper article that hasn’t been written yet. The other, larger reason is that the entire Arrowverse is currently taking place in an alternate timeline that Barry created by going back and saving (and then not saving) his mother’s life.
So if anyone knows about the possibility of screwing with history, it’s Barry. And if not him, then the team of his friends whose job is literally to stop time-meddling from happening might have a take.
4 Black Canary
The relationship between Black Canary and Green Arrow in the comics is one of the most lasting and solid in the history of the medium. Their union is so strong that when Superman kills both of them in the Injustice storyline, Dr. Fate brings Black Canary back to life and takes her to be with an alternate dimension’s Green Arrow, and the two of them just accept this arrangement immediately.
So far, the Arrowverse is on its fourth Black Canary, and none of them have lived up to the source material. That’s true of many characters on these shows, but this one feels especially bad considering how important she is in the books. Laurel Lance comes closest, which makes sense, but the show doesn’t do much with her until it unceremoniously kills her off to give Oliver even more reason to take out Damien Darhk.
Even worse, her dying words are to endorse Oliver and Felicity’s relationship, and we’ve already mentioned how we feel about that. It’s like if Lois Lane died, and her final wish was that Superman go marry Barbara Gordon.
3 Oliver Queen's selective homicides
Oliver Queen has had a decent arc over the past five seasons; he started out waging his war on crime in Starling City by straight-up murdering everyone who had failed his city. It was simple but problematic, and the hero has since lived up to this legacy by swearing off killing … except for all of those times that he still puts people down permanently.
Maybe it isn’t satisfying drama if the bad guys just go to jail, but Queen has murdered Ra’s al Ghul, and he’ll probably de-life Prometheus by the end of this season, too. Despite pledging never to take another life, the Green Arrow always finds ways to justify it. And in one incredibly puzzling scene this season, he admonishes the new Black Canary for trying to kill some thugs immediately after blowing up a helicopter full of guys.
We’re ostensibly alright with heroes making tough decisions and realizing that some threats are too large to leave open, but Oliver can’t even make up his mind in a single scene. That’s especially odd considering Diggle and Wild Dog take guns into fights. We’re sure they’ve claimed a victim or two, and Oliver seems alright with that.
2 Wasted characters
DC Comics has been around for over 80 years now, and it’s come up with dozens of memorable characters who have appeared again and again. And it seems that the Arrowverse is in such a rush to include as many of them as possible that it’s throwing a lot away in one-shot, “Villain of the Week” episodes.
Memorable, powerful, and popular heroes and villains have shown up in the Arrowverse just to disappear or die off after a single appearance. Mirror Master and Top, for example, are storied members of comic book Flash’s rogues gallery, and they’ve only had one feature episode and a cameo. The same is true of Multiplex, Rainbow Raider, and King Shark, who admittedly aren’t the best characters in the world, but they come with the territory and don’t get to do much.
Others manage to pull multiple episodes, but for various reasons, they don’t survive the adaptation well. We’ve already mentioned the potential it’s wasted with Black Canary, but even the potential inherent in immortal supervillain Vandal Savage went to waste, because they made him so weird and creepy instead of just crazy and evil.
1 Team Arrow's infighting
This is an honest question: Has Team Arrow ever gotten along?
They’ve always squabbled about stuff that Oliver had lied to them about, and then once he ran out of fibs, Felicity started keeping things from everyone else. Or they’ll bring on a new member who didn’t play well with others. Or the villain reveals something from Oliver’s past that makes his friends not trust him anymore. Or Quentin Lance starts drinking again.
Team Arrow spends more time arguing and fighting with each other than they do fighting criminals. Every week, it’s like watching the first hour of The Avengers, when they’re all trying to kill each other while Loki runs around doing whatever his plan was in that movie. As viewers, it gets really old, but we didn’t even realize how bad it was until The Flash started, and that supergroup managed to band together almost immediately. But the Arrow crew has been doing this longer than anyone, and they still seem to hate each other far more often than not.
What are your beefs with the Arrowverse? Be sure to let us know in the comments.